Park district seeks new commissioner, revists old business

The Vashon Park District will hold a special public meeting on Aug. 27 to conduct interviews with the candidates who have expressed interest in serving to the end of former commissioner Scott Harvey’s remaining term, which is set to expire at the end of next year. Citing pushback from board members about his ability to serve with them, one of the candidates has withdrawn from consideration, leaving three interested in the open seat.

Nick Keenan, a financial analyst and vice president of the Vashon Island Soccer Club who lost a previous bid for election to the park district in 2017, wrote in an email that “some commissioners feel like I represent ‘a single sport.’ The messaging is consistent, clear and always in a negative tone, and the reasoning I can’t figure out,” he said.

He was referring in large part to a comment made by board member Karen Gardner at the regular meeting on June 26, in which he believes she appeared to take specific issue with the idea of a candidate who had a background such as his.

“We didn’t come in to support a single sport or anything like that. We really do have the well-being of the community at heart, and if we do that, we avoid ‘I want everything for my soccer team’ or whatever,” she said.

Keenan sent notice of his withdrawal to executive director Elaine Ott-Rocheford on July 27.

“I can’t think of a single time the all-volunteer soccer club, where I’ve served as vice president for the last three years, has been anything but a good partner with parks and the community at large,” he said, calling his 200 hours coaching for Vashon Island Soccer Club a strength in addition to his professional experience.

Regarding her comment from the June 26 meeting, Gardner did not believe she had made any deliberate reference to Keenan.

“He’s reading something into that that I had no intention of saying. We do want a board member who is working for our community interests rather than one single sport, but just because he is a sports person doesn’t mean he doesn’t have feelings that support the entire community,” she said. Gardner added that she was “a little surprised he didn’t ask” her about his concerns before withdrawing.

Keenen said that a comment made to him in private by a different commissioner also led to his decision, who he claimed was reserving their support for “a 40-year-old woman” and not him. He did not name the commissioner.

“Facing that obstacle, and the false generalization that I care only about soccer, I withdrew my consideration to be interviewed by the four commissioners and being measured by them as being worthy or not of filling the open seat,” he said, pledging to support the district’s endeavors. He said he hoped that islanders would review past meeting minutes themselves, which are online.

Keenan was in attendance at Tuesday’s meeting where old business, was discussed at length.

Chair Doug Ostrom led a conversation about the use of a proxy vote during the June 12 meeting of the board where a contentious staff wage plan resolution was passed. Abby Antonelis, attending to planned business in Alaska at the time and out of range to use a phone, had submitted a proxy vote on her behalf in support of the staff wage plan.

Ostrom said that proxy voting in government organizations is not a usual procedure due to potential irregularities that stem from transmitting the proxy, as well as the question of integrity. He said with expanded use of proxy voting, there would be no incentive for board members to attend meetings and asked for them to consider banning the procedure from being used in future measures.

Ott-Rocheford has maintained that based on the district’s model for parliamentary procedure, in accordance with The Open Public Meetings Act, a proxy vote was proper. She offered that an exception could easily be made to discontinue it further. But Antonelis disagreed, arguing that given her situation it was the only way for her to cast a vote.

Commissioner Bob McMahon was more lenient and suggested that the board can determine if proxy voting is appropriate given certain conditions.

“We’re not totally hamstrung by this. I think we ought to write something up and talk about it some more,” he said.

Meanwhile, ongoing negotiations continue with the fire district to draft an interlocal agreement and meet compliance with the law.

“We need to have an interlocal, and there needs to be some consideration to the tune of what value we think [fire] service is worth,” said Ott-Rocheford. As it now stands, Krimmert has proposed an annual cost for service of $8,600 or a-fee-for-services schedule that would be less costly though difficult to budget for on account of forecasting costs.

Ostrom borrowed a talking point from earlier meetings of the board and suggested paying the fire district $1 for service, though speaking later, he acknowledged that such a symbolic gesture of their frustration would likely be out of compliance with the RCW mandating a like-value exchange.

Gardner echoed Ostrom and invited the fire district to sue if they did not like what the park district agreed to pay.

Most of the calls the fire district responds to on park district property are medical in nature. At the meeting, Ostrom recalled witnessing “fat people” riding bicycles at Jensen Point while he was exercising, and upon returning to the area, noticed that an aid call had been dispatched there.

“It just seems ridiculous that we should be responsible for that,” he said. Asked later, he said that he did not know if the aid call had been dispatched to assist the group from earlier and said that he “may have been speaking out of turn.”

The board will convene again for its next regular meeting at 7 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 28, at Ober Park.

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